Consider the tools that artists use to create. A painter uses paint. A potter uses clay. A carpenter uses wood. So, what do singers use to create? A MULTITUDE of vocal tools! These tools include vibrato, straight tone, breathiness, rasp, larynx positions, mouth shape, tongue positions, twang, nasal resonance, volume, diction, and register shifts. And this is just to name a few! So, be creative as a Vocal Creator. Experiment, explore, and exaggerate. Take risks, take liberties, and take Joy! You'll be surprised what amazing, unique, and soulful sounds you can make. You won't end up with a painting, a pot, or a table. But, you'll discover what it means to be a vocal artist with your own creative STYLE!
The Larynx is the home of the AMAZING Vocal Folds! The Vocal Folds create sound when they are set into vibration by our breath. The top layer of the Vocal Folds provides them with structure. The deeper layers are set into vibration hundreds and even thousands of times per second as they vibrate. Depending on vocal fold tension, air flow, and resonance, the vocal folds collide with varying amounts of force. As singers, our goal is to help the Vocal Folds collide with minimal force for every vocal task - even things like belting. Your Vocal Folds will vibrate many hundreds of millions and even BILLIONS of times in your life. So, keep them healthy by avoiding squeezy strain, pushy breathing, and spready mouths. If you do, your Vocal Folds will continue to be amazing always!
"Can you sing a HARMONY for this song?" With no sheet music in sight - what is your reaction? Is it an enthusiastic "Yes! Of course!" or an anxious "Ummmm." Being able to create Harmonies in a song is a fantastic skill to have and can actually be far more FUN than scary! The most important part of being able to Harmonize is to truly LISTEN. Listen beyond the melody and focus on the chord progression. Common and simple harmonies include thirds, fourths, fifths, and sixths - but there are countless ways to spice things up within the movement of the chords. Practice singing along with the music of songs with clear melodies to see how different harmonies are created in the accompaniment. Harness the music ACCOMPANYING the melody and before you know it you'll be adding many beautiful Harmonies to your songs!
"How do ye go from note to note? Let me count the ways!" The next time you're listening to an amazing Riff or vocal improvisation, notice how the singer goes to and from notes. Some musical lines flow smoothly from one note to the next. Others include scoops, slides, or big leaps. Still others have grace notes, repeated accents on one note, or double or triple turns around a note. Each kind of musical movement has its own challenges. And, different movements are easier or harder for different singers. But no matter what you choose, a wide variety of movement gives your Riffs their sparkle, their character, and their life! Want your Riffs to love thee? Practice ALL the ways!
The MIX Voice is not just one Vocal Register, but a variety of blended coordinations. The Mix mostly boils down to the STRENGTH of the ThyroArytenoid Muscle MIXED with the LENGTH created by the CricoThyroid Muscle. This means power without volume. This means Head Resonance without Head Voice. This means high notes that feel just as easy as middle and low notes. To improve your Mix Voice, try carrying some of the strength of Chest Voice up higher in your range - yet without increasing the air, without adding volume, and without opening up the mouth wider. It's very tempting to cheat with breath, volume, and open embouchures. But, if you stay true to the mechanics, you'll find your Mix coordinations developing - STRONG and LONG!
Struggling with tension on a difficult phrase of a song? Try looking at the BIG PICTURE! We often get hung up on all the little parts of a difficult phrase: so many words, so many notes, so many leaps... it can feel very overwhelming! Try shifting your focus to the full ARC instead. What is the contour or shape of the phrase from start to finish? Does it end higher or lower than where it began? What is the meaning of the full sentence you are singing? Following BIGGER ideas in your mind while you sing helps you flow through the little details that are often much easier than they seem when focusing full attention on them. So if you have a scary, tension-creating phrase - try stepping back and looking at the BIG PICTURE!
Do you want to reduce vocal TENSION? Two of the best ways to do so are to use good vocal technique and to do a proper Warm-Up before singing. Establishing good technique is obvious. Warming up, however, is too often overlooked! Many singers are eager to begin their practice with the more intricate and difficult skills that they are currently working to develop. Some singers even jump right into a full-out performance! For most, this causes unnecessary tension as the voice goes from resting to suddenly strenuous vocal acrobatics! Warms-Ups shouldn't take very long and we don't want to "over-Warm Up". However, a gentle progression through various resonances and registers for 5-10 minutes is a great way to ensure that tension doesn't occur from trying to get right to the heavy lifting!
If a song isn't right for you, find out WHY. Many of us have songs in our books that we love to sing, but that teachers or casting directors say "just aren't right for you." When this happens, be sure to ask your listeners WHAT about the song makes them feel that way. Is the problem technical: the song highlights an uncomfortable part of your voice or doesn't allow you to show off your best vocal skills? Maybe it's emotional: the song may seem downtrodden when your natural energy is more buoyant. Or, perhaps the song has a worldliness that your innocence seems to work against. However true or false this feedback may feel to your personal instincts, it can help you learn a lot about yourself as a performer and guide you to material that absolutely IS right for you!
Have you ever noticed that your voice sounds and feels different after running, aerobics, or other cardiovascular exercise? Studies have shown that using the voice immediately after physical activity requires increased laryngeal effort. In the studies done, aerobics instructors used their voices after an intense workout. There was a noticeable increase in the closure forces of the vocal folds (Phonation Threshold Pressure) during this time. The aerobics instructors also experienced an increase in perceived vocal effort. For most of us, this suggests that we should take a break between full-body exercise and our vocal workout. It's very good for your singing that you be in great cardiovascular and aerobic shape. Just make sure that you avoid doing things back-to-back if you're bothered by this tendency! Or, sing first and then do your workout second. Run. Rest. Sing!
Do you ever have trouble SUSTAINING a note? The first step to good Sustains is to consider which VOWEL you are singing. Sustains are almost always done on vowels. So, knowing your EXACT vowel is critical. Ask yourself: will this vowel be sung PURELY or will it be MODIFIED in any way? Next, consider your JAW position. For bigger sounds, we might choose a more open jaw. However, all Sustains require the jaw to be free and loose. Finally, inspect your BREATH. Sustains rely on good Breath Support. So, don't let your air come out too fast! Instead, feel the airflow traveling at a controlled, but constant rate. With these elements in place, you're ready to hold notes with greater ease and control than ever before!
"Am I too old to sing?". This is a question asked by 17-year olds. This is a question asked by 30-year olds. It's asked by 50-years olds. And, by 70-year olds. But, if it's a question that virtually everyone asks themselves, then there's something wrong with the question. Singing is meant for everyone to enjoy and to succeed at regardless of their age. It's actually quite reasonable to sing into one's NINETIES very beautifully! Often society puts pressure and expectations on people of all ages regarding what they "can" or "cannot" do. So, you have two options. You can listen to those pressures and stay silent. Or, you can dare to "Make A Joyful Noise!". If you do, it will keep you forever YOUNG!
Do you remember your BEST audition? Probably what comes to mind is the time that you booked the big part. Or, the time that someone said something nice about your work. Or, the time that you sang your song "perfectly". Those certainly are great auditions. But, they are not your BEST auditions. Your best auditions are the ones when you woke up at 4:30AM just to be seen. The ones where you patted yourself on the back when nobody else would. The ones where you came SO close, didn't get what you wanted, and still decided to not quit performing. Because THOSE auditions are the ones that give you the guts, the grind, and the grit of a true professional performer. If you can learn to make those your BEST auditions… well, then, nobody can stop you.
What's the key to success in the Music Industry? YOU. As an aspiring artist, you must understand who YOU are before prospering in the field. Don't let the industry compromise what makes you special. There will always be a multitude of great artists out there. Yet, your originality is what keeps you grounded and sets you apart. Your productivity, your preparation, and your perseverance are completely up to YOU. Are you writing new music? Are you studying? Do you know what you're saying as an artist? Are you staying true to your heart, your uniqueness, and your Joy? The more specific you can be about your own gifts and goals, the more ready you are for success. No artist in history has ever had everything go according to plan. So, take control over the one thing in the Music Industry that you can control: YOU!
One of the most important things to keep in mind when trying to make it in the music industry is PERSPECTIVE! It's easy to focus solely on where you want to be. But, don't forget to look at how far you have come! When you began your singing journey you were nowhere near the vocalist that you are now. Your past self would love to be the vocalist you are today! Keep that in mind as you follow your musical pursuits. Each opportunity you are given to showcase your vocal skill, no matter how big or small, is one more step along the road towards vocal excellence and success as a musician. As you reflect on how far you've come, allow this perspective to inspire you to continue striving for what is ahead!
Have you ever gone to a restaurant and filled up on salad and bread? The same can happen in your singing practice! While warming up is always recommended, be careful not to get carried away. This is especially true before an audition or big performance! If you're feeling nervous, the temptation to overdo it may increase. As with all things, moderation is key. Warm-ups are built to PREPARE your performance, not replace it. Once your voice feels "warm" - that is to say, you can navigate the different registers of the voice with relative ease - turn your mind and voice to the performance itself. Faith in yourself and your soulful readiness are more important than warming up! So, make sure that you save room for the main course!
There is an enormous amount of confidence that comes from playing a role that you've performed numerous times. Or, from performing an audition piece that you use on a consistent basis. But how do you keep your acting FRESH? One great way is to take a deliberate and disciplined approach to your BREATHING. In rehearsal, try taking a breath after a different word each time you read a line. This will change the rhythm of your speech. The rhythm of your speech will then change the meaning of the line. This will have an effect on your gestures and body language that support the line. Your acting will become richer in nuance and subtlety just from the breath alone. You can literally BREATHE new life into each and every character you play - even characters you've played many times before!
What's your FAVORITE Vowel? Chances are, when you vocalize, you feel like a CHAMP on certain Vowels when you sing High Notes. Odds are - those MAGIC Vowels are "EE" as in "Geese" or "OO" as in "Choose". There's an explanation for this! "EE" and "OO" are what are known as Closed Vowels. Closed Vowels employ more Head Voice than Chest Voice. This makes it easier to sing higher. Most likely you find a wide Open Vowel like "AH" as in "MAMA" much more difficult to sing on higher notes. That's because without modification, Open Vowels employ too much Chest Voice to be sung at too high of a pitch. If you struggle with this, try closing the "AH" to an "AW" as in "Hawk" or "AHWN" as in "Honk" to make your "AH" more High Note-friendly. Soon, you'll be welcoming Open Vowels into the ranks as some of your new FAVORITE vowels!